There are few things more luxurious than a five-star bush holiday. Secluded deep in the wilderness, lodges do their utmost to make sure their guest’s experiences are as flawless as possible. The beauty of the natural environment combined with opulent decor, excellence in service, personal guest care, stunning views and utter serenity, bush getaways are the only thing I’m interested in for 2021.
Through personal experience, these are my picks of the best luxury bush getaways in Southern Africa…
Camp Kuzuma, Botswana
Camp Kuzuma’s luxury African safari experience begins as you leave Kasane Airport. The elephants wander around freely and can be spotted along the road that leads to the camp. It’s hardly surprising, being nestled in the world’s largest corridor of migrating elephants – more specifically, between the Chobe National Park and Hwange National Park in neighbouring Zimbabwe. The elephants seem at peace here, as if they know their kind have been migrating along this route for hundreds of years. The tented camp, under a canopy of Mopane trees, is as close as you can get to bush heaven. The watering hole is 30m from the lodge and whether you are enjoying an outdoor shower, sitting on the deck with a drink or having a Tsala massage in the open tent, you hear the elephants “talking”. It is from this oasis that you can explore the famous Chobe National Park and enjoy a sunset cruise on the mighty Chobe River. As you float along, you will witness the elephants having a last dip in the burnt-orange-tinted water; listen to the haunting lament of fish eagles; and observe plovers, lapwings, jacanas, osprey, the inevitable ducks and geese and the tiny, colourful Malachite kingfisher. It is a game-watcher’s and twitcher’s paradise.
For more information, visit www.campkuzuma.co.za.
Mantis Biyela Lodge and Mthembu Lodge, uMfolozi Big Five Reserve
Mantis Biyela Lodge and Mantis Mthembu Lodge are in the private uMfolozi Big Five Reserve which is a 6000-hectare concession made up of wilderness and tribal land. Adjoining the acclaimed Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park; the creation of uMfolozi Big Five Reserve has provided economic opportunities to local communities, and increased the habitat of many species including endangered ones such as wild dog and vultures.
Biyela Lodge is a sophisticated, modern lodge that cascades down a steep embankment of the White Imfolozi River where elephants and lions are often spotted. Spacious suites generous viewing decks; some with private pools and some with day beds. The social spaces have various lounges, a dining room, spa, and bar by the firepit. Biyela Lodge is perfect for adult groups and couples seeking privacy.
Mthembu Lodge lies downriver, at eye-level with the river where crocodiles rule the waters. An intimate lodge perfect for families, Mthembu is on the exact site where Dr Ian Player stabled the patrol horses for Operation Rhino. Mthembu Lodge is also within the footprint of one of the oldest anti-poaching quarters in the area. It is this footprint that enabled Mantis and the developers to create a lodge in a proclaimed Wilderness.
For more information, visit www.mantiscollection.com.
Dulini Leadwood Lodge, Sabi Sands
If seclusion is your bread and butter, then look no further than Leadwood Lodge by Dulini Lodges. Leadwood Lodge has only four rooms, snuggled up on either side of the main lodge. As such, it has an intimate feel, which is enhanced by the large trees enfolding each room, through which you can catch glimpses of various animals coming down to drink at the Sabie River. The rooms are decorated in an “African chic” style with a large bedroom, off which are situated a lounge, a dressing area, and an expansive bathroom with bathtub and two showers – one inside and one out. Each room also has its own plunge pool – although “plunge” is probably misleading as these pools are large enough to get in a couple of freestyle strokes. As an added bonus, they are also heated. Meals can be enjoyed communally in a pretty dining area next to the lodge pool, or in the lodge’s petite boma, while guests can also eat on their own at secluded tables around the deck of the main lodge or even in the tree house overlooking it. Leadwood Lodge is ideal for honeymoon couples and those seeking a little extra privacy.
For more information, visit www.dulini.com.
Geiger’s Camp, Motswari Private Game Reserve
My Geiger’s Camp experience got off to a great start as I was welcomed with a refreshing drink. I was taken to my room and felt immediately enticed by the outdoor shower. Decorated in green and blue tiles, the outdoor shower was fitted with antique knobs and looked completely natural in its surroundings. The hanging wicker chair on the patio was where I spent many happy hours reading my book, listening to the sounds of the bush and basking in the sunshine. With only four rooms, Geiger’s Camp is the most intimate accommodation option on the reserve. The shared communal area is made up of a library, pool area, lounge and veranda area, and a boma. The infinity pool overlooks the reserve, and is surrounded by luxuriously comfy cushion loungers and artisanal chairs made by craftsmen in Cape Town. It’s the little touches that make Geiger’s Camp what it is. The artworks that adorn the walls were painted by the owner, Marion Geiger-Orengo, the furnishings were hand-picked by the family, and most of the staff have worked at Motswari for years and years. This is more than just a safari camp: It’s a home and every guest leaves feeling like they’ve joined the family.
For more information, visit www.newmarkhotels.com.
Klaserie Sands River Camp & Founder’s Post, Klaserie Private Nature Reserve
Klaserie Sands River Camp is the place for you if you prefer a slower paced safari. Completely rebuilt after extensive flooding a few years ago, the camp is all quiet luxury and soft, cooling colour schemes. A rim-flow pool overlooking the waterhole is where you’ll find guests on a warm afternoon, or having a siesta after lunch before heading out on a game drive. At Klaserie Sands, even the game drives are different. The rangers tailor every experience to the guest, and it’s refreshing to know that there is more than one way to have a safari experience. To visit Klaserie Sands is to understand what the respect for and love of nature is in the truest sense. The camp has a deep-rooted connection to the breath-taking environment in which both camps sit. Every employee has a passion for the land and the animals that call it home, and are eager to welcome you to their world. For an unforgettable night under the stars, book the Starbed Experience and enjoy delicious seclusion in utter luxury amongst the wilderness of Klaserie Private Nature Reserve.
For more information, visit www.klaseriesands.com.
Royal Chundu, Zambia
Royal Chundu is a luxury safari lodge and the only hotel in Zambia endorsed by Relais & Chateaux. It’s situated almost equidistant between the Zambian town of Livingstone and the Kazungula Ferry crossing, where Zambia and Botswana are divided by the Zambezi River. Water is an integral part of life here. But for those craving quiet solitude and the utmost in privacy, Island Lodge, on Royal Chundu’s very own Katomboro Island, is like finding Neverland in the middle of the African bush. Accessed by a 10-minute boat ride from River Lodge, it might as well be 10 hours from the mainland. The eight guests at a time who are privileged enough to experience the island are so blissfully well looked after by the staff that all thoughts of work and responsibilities float casually down the river, as you sit on the main deck feasting on five-star cuisine and contemplating an afternoon snooze in your beautiful suite.
The four suites on the island are decorated in pretty shades of white and blue that perfectly complement the river views below them. And indeed, everything is designed to make the river the star of the show. Who needs a wall? Especially when the entire front of the suite is floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open up onto an expansive deck, complete with bean bag loungers and a table and chairs, should you opt for a romantic candlelit dinner on the deck. The giant bed faces the river, as does the lounge, and the glass-fronted shower – where else can you lather up to the morning anthem of hippos harrumphing?
For more information, www.royalchundu.com.
Shumbalala, Thornybush Reserve
Sitting pretty on the soft sand banks of the Monwana River, Shumbalala is made up of stone-floored, luxury thatched suites. Offering guests a taste of African luxury, Shumbalala’s suites offer private viewing decks, modern en-suite bathrooms, spacious bedrooms and bedding so soft that you won’t want to leave in the morning. Excellent service is the name of the game for the staff at Shumbalala and their intimate camp means they can pay special attention to each and every guest that walks through their antique wooden doors. It’s not uncommon for a hyena to casually stroll past the main lodge doors during dinner time, only to duck his head in and see what all the noise is about.
The star of the show at Shumbalala, in my opinion anyway, is their rim-flow pool. Complete with pristine sun loungers and a view of the watering hole only 50 metres away, it’s a common sight to see a herd of elephants playing in the watering hole and also taking a stroll over to the pool for a closer look. It is such an honour to be able to sit in a cool pool on a hot summer’s day while a family of elephants come in for a closer look. All of this and more can be found at Shumbalala.
For more information, visit www.shumbalala.co.za.
Pel’s Post, Kruger National Park
My list would not be complete without the lodge that stole my heart. I have never, and somewhat cynically, I do not think I will ever be able to recapture the feeling that I felt when I walked into my suite at Pel’s Post. With sheer canvas blinds making up three out of four walls, there is never a time – day or night – where you are not staring at one of the most stunning views available in the Kruger. Relaxing in bed as the sun is just about to appear over the horizon, your field of view is perfectly illuminated and you feel so small in a world of such magnitude and beauty. At night, you can hear the calls of the hyena and the occasional wandering elephant as he breaks his way through nearby trees. Pel’s Post boasts only four suites, making its maximum capacity eight people. The communal area houses a stunning indoor and outdoor lounge, a viewing deck, a pool deck, a bar and a reception area. Your party will be personally catered for, giving you the seclusion you crave, without being too far away from your friends and family who accompanied you on this trip of a lifetime.
Pafuri is elephant country so if, like me, you are a little cautious of these great giants, rest assured that the rangers at both Pel’s Post and The Outpost are well versed in elephant behaviour and will keep you out of danger at all costs.
For more information, visit www.rareearth.co.za.
This marks a sad end to my list. If I could name every lodge I have been to, believe me, I would have. Check out the websites and book your next bush break in utter confidence that you’d made the right choice!